The “Mission: Impossible” movie franchise has taken on a near-mythical status, due to its leader Tom Cruise and his single-minded focus with each new film: add more risk, take more chances, generate more excitement and danger. Whether it involves scaling the outside of the Burj Khalifa, or hanging from a plane in mid-flight, the team behind the franchise all operate from a clear and unmistakable mission statement: Risk it all to entertain the world.

Of course, the hidden truth in these movies is that the team surrounding Ethan Hunt is just as important as he is, managing all the risk and coordinating all the details, so that the impossible mission becomes…possible.

At Brown Advisory, we have a similarly single-minded mission—to help clients chart their long-term path of progress—and we want to help them develop clear and unmistakable mission statements of their own.

Of course, our work with families approaches risk from a very different angle than Ethan Hunt! Rather than leaping into risk in the face of impossible odds, we seek to account for and manage the various risks and challenges a family may face in pursuing its objectives. In order to do this effectively, we try to help families build consensus about those objectives, so everyone is rowing in the same direction.

We believe a family mission statement allows a family to filter out the “background noise” of day-to-day challenges and focus on long-term goals and objectives. Developing these documents provides a process for reaching agreement on the family’s core values and creates a shared vision amongst all family members.

Many of our clients tell us it’s helpful to think of the family as a type of “business” with a broad set of constituencies extending beyond the immediate family members, and whose success depends on a common purpose and culture. With that in mind, the process of crafting that statement over multiple discussions and meetings is often more important than the statement itself, and that process requires time and commitment.

As with many projects, the first step--starting the conversation—is often the hardest. To maintain long-term perspectives, we believe it is important to have a multi-generational engagement and allow for all voices to be heard. While financial matters will ultimately be a critical part of the conversation, we believe other issues like leadership, stewardship and character must also be included; without building these broader issues into the family’s mission and plans, it can become more difficult over time to ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction.

A family mission statement is a succinct statement of the family’s purpose and core values, addressing personal, financial and philanthropic matters. When drafting a mission statement, we believe that some questions to consider are:

  • What is our family’s purpose and identity?
  • What kind of relationships do we want to have with one another?
  • How do we want to resolve our differences?
  • Which traditions do we want to carry forward and preserve?
  • How will our family’s story be re-told?
  • What issues and values are most important to the family?
  • What are our responsibilities as family members?
  • How will our family’s wealth be preserved, grown and deployed?
  • If there is a family business should it be extended to the next generation? How should ownership and management be handled in the future?
  • How should we fund things like education? Buying a home? Starting a business?
  • How should our family’s values impact our approach to investing?
  • How do we want to be remembered as a family?
  • What philanthropic missions do we care about?
  • Where can we have an impact by devoting our time?
  • What should be our financial goal for giving?
  • What talents do we have that can be put to use in our communities?

An important complement to a family’s mission statement is the strategic plan put in place to communicate its goals and implementation steps to the family. Such a plan should address:

  • Empowerment: How will family members be empowered to advance the family mission?
  • Family governance and connectedness: How will the family communicate about their shared mission while maintaining personal relationships and individual responsibility?
  • Legacy preservation: How will the family pass on their values, preserve “legacy assets”, and safeguard the family history, stories, and overall ethos?
  • Management and oversight of family financial capital: How will the family work with outside partners to ensure their financial capital is managed properly?
  • Accountability: How will family members be held accountable to each other, their overall mission and strategic plan?

In short, a family mission statement, simple or complex, helps ensure that your family’s big picture goals and objectives are articulated, and your family’s strategic plan helps ensure that your capital is deployed in a way that is meaningful to you. A challenging task, to be sure, but certainly not…..impossible.  

For a list of tools to help execute your strategic plan, and a more comprehensive look at how to create a family mission statement and strategic plan, don’t hesitate to contact us >


Sustainable Investing at Brown Advisory

When constructing your family’s mission statement and strategic plan it is also important to determine if your family wants to incorporate their values into their investment philosophy. Between the “traditional” poles of investing and philanthropy lies a spectrum of options that may allow the family to pursue investment goals and express values – which is known as “Sustainable Investing.”
Learn more >


The views expressed are those of Brown Advisory as of the date referenced and are subject to change at any time based on market or other conditions. These views are not intended to be and should not be relied upon as investment advice and are not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance and you may not get back the amount invested.

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